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Microsoft contests patent infringement decision

An appeals court should throw out a $500m (£260m) patent infringement judgement against Microsoft because a lower court failed to recognise that the patent was not invented by the company awarded the money, a Microsoft lawyer claimed yesterday.

Lawyer Constantine Trela told an appeals court in Washington that the Eolas Technologies patent that allowed web browsers to recognise and run embedded applications on web pages had been demonstrated by Pei-Yuan Wei in May 1993, more than five years before the Eolas patent was granted.

But Eolas lawyer Martin Lueck argued that the patent was valid because Wei abandoned the functionality in later versions of his Viola web browser and never demonstrated his browser's ability to run embedded applications to anyone.

Lueck rejected the suggestion that Wei made the functionality public and improved the browser. "That's not what happened. If you put a feature in a piece of software, and you never show it to anyone, you never give it to anyone, and you never use it again, that's abandonment."

The Eolas lawsuit against Microsoft, filed in 1999, prompted an outcry from several web experts, including Tim Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web Consortium. The US Patent Office re-examined the patent and rejected it last March. 

Grant Gross writes for IDG News Service


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